American Airlines (and I assume the others) is offering the lowest offseason fares to London that I've ever seen in my life.  US$252 from Chicago is about $50 cheaper than any previous fare I've seen, and $196 from New York is just plain crazy.  It's cheaper to go to London in November than to Des Moines (not that there's anything wrong with Des Moines).  What's more, this sale seems to actually be available on many, many flights.  And it is available for five months, November through March.
Off-season London not sounding too exciting?  I have two answers to that --
1) It actually can be quite great.  Think about it -- London offers so much that is indoors anyway -- dozens of great museums (British Museum, V&A, Tate Modern, etc.), shopping (Harrod's, now with Krispy Kreme :), theatre, and the tube will get you anywhere, anyway.  There are hundreds of cheap hotel rooms, if you are willing to settle for "basic".
2) Don't stay in London, go somewhere else!  This may be the cheapest trans-con fare you'll ever see -- I can't imagine it ever being much lower -- so just think of it as a first segment.  From London, you can get anywhere in Europe for dirt cheap, including other places you might want to go in the dead of Winter.  There are two major low cost airlines that operate out of the London area -- Ryanair and EasyJet (fares can be as low as about US$5 one way on these crazy airlines!).  The train fare to get to the airport may cost you more than the flight itself.

Another option is to use those frequent flyer miles you have sitting around on US carriers on flights within Europe.  American, United, and Delta are all part of big international alliances that each have three or more affiliated European airlines.  Since London Heathrow is the busiest commercial airport in Europe, you can connect to any of those airlines from a cheapo AA overseas flight no problem.  

  • American's AAdvantage is probably the best bet there, as you can redeem your miles for British Airways tickets (and BA does, literally, fly everywhere from Heathrow).  You can also use American miles on Iberia (Costa del sol anyone?), Aer Lingus, Swiss, SN Brussels, Finnair, El Al, and Turkish Airlines.
  • United's Star Alliance partners are the most numerous in Europe.  You can redeem UA miles on BMI British Midland (also serving many destinations from Heathrow, including a ton of leisure spots), Lufthansa, Austrian/Lauda/Tyrolean, SAS Scandinavian, and Spanair.
  • Delta's Skyteam partners are Air France, Alitalia, and CSA Czech Airlines.  Alitalia flies nonstop from London to Milan, Rome, and Florence so definitely some nice options there (oops, Nice would require flying Air France...uh, nevermind).

And now for Ed's best travel tip.  Why is this all such a great deal?  For many of these European frequent flier tickets, you'll find three things different from booking award travel in the US:
1) seats are actually available on many, if not all flights
2) Award tickets can go for a mere 20,000 miles for a round-trip
3) You do not have to stick to a round-trip -- you can arrive in one city and depart another (fly to Rome and return from Florence), or you can fly to one city, and "return" to another city.  Just make sure the second segment is shorter than the first, and either of these are possible.  For example, I'm doing this for my free days between the Admin/Developer UK conference and DNUG next month...I'm flying London to Vienna, and then Vienna to Frankfurt, both on a single, 20,000 mile, Austrian Airlines/Star Alliance ticket with United miles.
Now, I know my European readers will think I'm nuts for encouraging people to visit some of these places in the off-season, but personally I think it's the best time.  After Lotusphere Berlin one year, ten of us trained down to Prague and had a great time exploring what were much quieter streets than normal.  I enjoyed getting to know Copenhagen (and a side trip to Malmo) after DNUG last year.  You can get a lot more value, and a lot less hassle, if you don't mind the cold.  For me, it's cold at home anyway, so what's the difference?

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